An Apple a day – the healthier option for branded apps

New health tracking features of Apple iOS 8 present opportunities for brands in industries from healthcare and insurance, to FMCG and travel, writes Paul Napier.


Tomorrow, the new iOS8 is available for users to download. As an iOS developer I have had several months to play around and come to understand the new features that come with this version of the operating system. As always with the new release of iOS, there are a suite of changes, some major and some minor.

One of the most exciting  additions to come out is HealthKit. So, what is it and how could it be used within your brand’s digital portfolio?


What is HealthKit?

HealthKit is the product of a two-year collaborative endeavour between Apple and Mayo Clinics, which services around 1.2 million patients every year. Their combined goal is to put iPhones and iPads at the centre of the self-health movement that has seen traction of the last few years.

At its core, HealthKit is a central hub/repository for gathering all the intelligence apps collect about a user’s fitness and health. Apps are able to upload their information about a user’s health and fitness activities into HealthKit, and in instances where users grant them permission, download this information and manipulate it to gather a better picture of the person currently signed into the app.

Users can see all their information at a glance, as it tracks their fitness activities such as running, walking and cycling from apps and associated wearable technology. Additionally, adapters such as glucometers, ECG devices, blood pressure monitors and even ultrasound have been created to give greater knowledge to users about their overall health, all of which can be stored in HealthKit and accessed by users through the simple interface.

In essence, HealthKit has removed the silo mentality that comes from having multiple apps for individual purposes, and encourages greater communication between health and fitness experts.


How can it help me?

At this stage, since the technology is in its infancy, it is difficult to predict where it could lead. The obvious beneficiaries of this technology, at least in the first instance, are companies such as Nike, Adidas and other fitness specialists or wearable producers. However, beyond the obvious, this technology opens an exciting avenue that could allow more diverse industries to begin working on a more intimate level with their customers:

Medical: There could be long-term benefits to the medical industry, which will have a huge database of reliable, or at least semi-reliable, information about people’s fitness and health. This information can be used to begin reviewing trends in health statistics against medical complications.

Healthcare: State medical facilities can build apps that can hook into a patient’s profile and read their medical data alongside health and fitness activities, giving the doctors and immediate understanding of the patients well-being prior to any medical appointment. Taking this even further, the patients activities could be tracked and the patient sent a notification when certain thresholds are reached, meaning that doctors can start to focus more on prevention rather than the cure.

Financial services: Insurance companies could look at the health and fitness of their customers to provide accurate quotes, or provide incentives to those who follow a healthy regime.

FMCG: Food and beverage companies could build apps that tracked users consumption and offered better nutritional options on food and beverages could be tracked against the user’s health needs, allergy requirements, blood sugar levels, fitness activities or goals.

Travel: Airlines could be made aware of any medical needs for passengers, or be alerted to dietary requirements, while encouraging their passengers with medical conditions to continue tracking throughout the journey to ensure the crew are alerted in the event of any pressing concern. Travel companies could track for potential changes in stress to enable bespoke packages to engage health focused customers.

Retail: Clothing and apparel companies could track clothing sizes using measurements given by the users then look at targeting them with the newest ranges in sizes that match the user’s statistics or intended goals.


This information on its own is but one facet of a potential medical breakthroughs in both the literal and mobile sense. We are seeing a swell in the information being gathered around individuals: location, behavioural, social, economic, psychological, physiological, etc. I recently wrote an article outlining the benefits of looking at implementing a social strategy within your mobile application, and with the advent of this new technology, never has there been a greater time to review this strategy.

The power of integrating social alongside this medical and fitness information could seem overwhelming, and it is most certainly not for every company. However, for those companies that have a legitimate reason to access this information, the potential options for improving user experience and engagement are greater than ever before.

On a final note, any idea should have a benefit for both sides, and provide information about the user back into HealthKit before drawing information in return. This way, HealthKit can provide ongoing advancements and the information you receive can become a more detailed and richer experience for both you and the user.


Paul Napier
BY Paul Napier ON 16 September 2014
Paul Napier is senior mobile developer at We Are Social, a communications agency that specialises in socially-led thinking.